As a Special Session of the UNSC on Kosovo approaches on Tuesday, there is considerable dispute and speculation about who was responsible for the fatal grenade attack in north Mitrovica on July 2. The Albanians are hinting it was the Serbs themselves. Meanwhile there was another incident in north Mitrovica on July 5, the shooting of a Serb member of the Kosovo parliament. But whoever pulled the pin or trigger, the real point is that the Kosovo government's provocative action in seeking to impose its presence in the north – with Quint (and EULEX) support – has clearly increased tensions and now endangers the peace. The Serbs, left alone during this period of waiting for the ICJ ruling, would probably continue to argue among themselves over control of the north Mitrovica municipal administration and enjoy the summer. But the Albanian side seems intent on provoking the sort of “instability” that would force or justify the imposition of international control on the north that they would use to pre-empt the ICJ and secure the north. Some members of the Quint may indeed be looking for such an excuse to move police and KFOR into the north to subdue the "terrorists."
The conflict over Kosovo remains only frozen. The dividing line is the Ibar. The game remains zero-sum. What one side gains can only come at the expense of the other. For the northern Serbs, the contest is existential, a struggle to remain Serbs in the country they were born in. Perhaps the grenade went off accidentally, either from the hands of an Albanian, Serb or someone else? Perhaps the Serb/Albanian mafia – the only truly multi-ethnic activity that crosses the Ibar – was paid or encouraged to keep the pot boiling? But the real point is that the violence along the River has moved from the symbolic trading of demonstrations and occasional harmless explosions into real bloodshed. This is the fault of the international partners of Pristina for not containing the Albanian effort to push the northerners into a corner.
For now, the international community must keep the two sides apart and prevent any further provocations. The Kosovo government office should be closed. (The northern KPS refuse to secure it so as not to be off-sides with their local community.) If the Quint – ICO and EULEX – cannot play this peacekeeping role, the UN needs to take it back. This is the issue that the Security Council should decide on July 6. Otherwise there may be more violence, more partition, and a situation that runs out of control. This may be what some want but it cannot be what the international community supports.